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Cheap Cat Carrier Nearly Kills Cat

September 12, 2010

Caveat Emptor!  (Buyer Beware!)

Cat and dog toys, clothing, beds, strollers, and carriers are not regulated by the government and industry “watch dogs” like baby equipment is.  You assume if you buy a car seat, a stroller, a crib, or other equipment for a baby, toddler, or child, that it is safe for your child.  The consumer protection safety board, better business bureau, and everybody else keeps watch over these items.  If a stroller is deemed unsafe, it gets recalled.  Remember the baby carrier wraps from months ago that smothered a few kids in their parent’s arms because it was easy to use them the wrong way?  Those hard-to-use items come from the market, and if they have harmed a child, the company is sued and held accountable for the faulty design or construction.

No pet products receive the scrutiny baby and child products undergo.  Be very careful when you buy one of those cute, new puppy strollers.  Ever look at one?  Most strollers for pets look more like doll toys than children’s strollers.  They wiggle and collapse like a toy stroller, too.  Be very careful.

The #1 reason pets pass away in airplane cargo is a faulty carrier.  Sure, brachycephalic (pronounced bray-key-se-fallic), or short-nosed breeds like French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and English Bulldogs have been shown to be at greater risk of passing away on an airline flight because they cannot exchange air and breathe as well as other dogs.  But, far and away, the #1 reason a pet suffers an “adverse outcome” on an airplane is because the carrier failed. Either the door was not shut, a latch was missing, the carrier was too flimsy, or nuts and bolts were missing.  Faulty carriers do not do the job they need to do and pets can die as a result.

Incomplete, Useless Zipper

Just today, Doc Truli narrowly avoided losing a cat brought in for an appointment in a hastily bought cat carrier.

Out-of-breathe, cat’s mom said, “She just popped right out, right there in the parking lot, I can’t believe it!”

On closer examination of the carrier, we all believed it!

The zipper to close the top of the soft-sided style carrier was not sewn in all the way to the clasp flap.  The flap was flimsy, with only one attachment in the center.  Of course, the workmanship was shoddy, but most importantly, this brand-new cat carrier was not designed to hold a cat.  The bag resembled a cat carrier in name alone.

The top zipper stops before the end of the opening!

See how the zipper stops short of the end of the opening?

A Zipper Guard is a Fabulous Thing

Doc Truli also recently attempted unsuccessfully to sedate a cat for examination.  This 18 pound red tabby catcat, Chomper, is the #1 most aggressive cat Doc has ever seen in an animal hospital, other than a wild bobcat, but that’s another story.  Chomper growls and rattles the zippers on his designer carrier.  (That carrier costs about $1,200 retail! It had gold letters “L” and “V” all over a brown background….)  Chomper attacks before he even assesses the situation.  Practically, the attacks meant that Doc Truli tried to open the zipper on his carrier just a bit to test if he had mellowed since the previous year’s check-up.

No siree!  Chomper was in full form.  He shot a claw-extended leg out through the tiny zipper opening and his head with teethed bared was shoving through the hole behind the paw.  His aim was uncanny.  Luckily, Doc has gotten good at cat avoidance over the years.  A quick towel over the opening, and Chomper recoiled into the dark of the carrier cave.

Now, it was clear Chomper was not undergoing any procedures this fine day.  He needed to be re-ensconced into a carrier with butt-access.  What does a veterinarian mean by butt-access?  We mean: a good mesh window with kitty butt fur sticking out through it so we feel confident the kitty flesh is available to our needle full of sedative.  Yes sir.  That’s how we roll. (Adam Sandler, “That’s how we roll…”)

Doc Truli could not get Chomper’s carrier re-closed.  Why not?  Because the $1,200 luxury carrier lacked a zipper-guard.  Yes…a zipper guard.  If you like your veterinarian and your cat does not like the veterinarian, buy a carrier with a one-inch strip of fabric just under the length of the zipper.  Not only does the zipper guard prevent your cat’s fur from becoming caught in the zipper, the guard also prevents your cat from raking anyone who tries to grasp the zipper pull.  Chomper was all over that zipper pull.

Finally, Doc Truli dribbled some overwhelmingly yummy cat treats into the opening from a 6 inch height.  Chomper was too professional of a kitty-objector to be fooled by the treats.  No way!  But the momentary thought that crossed his mind, “Why is that vet bribing me with treats when she knows I abhor this whole process?” gave a split second opening to grasp the zipper pull and close the gap.  Viola!

Chomper returned the next week in a carrier fit for administering sedatives.

The moral of the story: check the carrier you buy.  Be sure it seals tight, the latches work, preferably metal, and a zipper guard lies under the top zip.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 3:03 pm

    Great post! And funny too (we have our Chompers where I work, too)…

    Yes, most of those cute, fashionista, trendy carriers are just as you explained…not made for cats, and not so great for dogs either! A cat can weasel it’s way out of the tiniest opening, and while we love those soft sided carriers for handling fractious cats, not all are made ‘cat-proof’, just as you explain!

    Our favorites are the Sherpa and the Bergen bags

    And about shipping pets in cargo, yes…you are right in saying that faulty carriers account for most losses of animals being shipped. The only carrier I will ship my cats in is the Petmate Varikennel. They are strong enough to stand on, with metal doors and secure latches. They run about $70 now and I have had people say ‘Oh, I can get a carrier for $30 someplace…but I tell them why I won’t use anything else.

    I had a cat shipped to me in a flimsy carrier with a plastic door and while the person checking the cat in at the airport should have NEVER accepted such a carrier, that is where problems occur when staff is not trained properly or care enough to do a good job.

    The door fell off the carrier while it was being transported from the plane to the terminal. I was sitting there waiting for her to arrive when an airline employee came up and notified me that my cat got loose. They took me down to the cargo area–a large hangar with lots of noise, vehicles, traffic around. I opened the ‘curtains’ of the luggage tram and it was a jumble of luggage, all tipped over.

    I do not know if she had exited the carrier or not, but the door was off and if she had gotten loose in that hangar, we would have never found her. She would have been terrified! But fortunately, she had buried herself under the bedding in the carrier, way in the back and she had not escaped!

    • October 3, 2010 2:01 am

      OMG! What a nightmare!
      My pilot friends say especially do not transport pets i cargo during the busiest summer travel months when the baggage crew are temporary and severely undertrained.
      As a vet, I love the Sherpa bags. They seem so well constructed and comfortable for the cats. They are not for cargo (of course), and they are not so excellent for auto safety. If you happen to get into an auto collision with a cat in the car, the cat will fly forward at the speed the car was travelling and suffer severe trauma or death. People do not think of this when their dog or cat likes to sit on their laps during travel in a vehicle like a car, but they should. You wouldn’t let a child sit on your lap in the front seat. Your cat or dog is in just as much danger as a child would be on your lap!
      I’ll have to check out the Bergen bags; it’s great to have choices!


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